Canberra: Nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced during the devastating 2019-20 Australian bushfires, according to a new report issued on Tuesday.
The findings meant it was one of “worst wildlife disasters in modern history”, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which commissioned the report, the BBC reported.
The mega blazes, which swept across every Australian state, also killing at least 33 people.
Mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs died in flames or from loss of habitat.
During the peak of the crisis in January, scientists had estimated that 1.25 billion animals had been killed in New South Wales and Victoria alone.
But the new estimate takes in a larger area. About 11.46 million hectares – an area comparable to England – was scorched from last September to this February.
“When you think about nearly three billion native animals being in the path of the fires, it is huge – it’s a difficult number to comprehend,” the BBC quoted Professor Chris Dickman. He oversaw the project by ten scientists from Australian universities, as saying.
He said they could not yet state an exact death toll, but noted the chances of animals escaping the blazes and surviving were “probably not that great” due to a lack of food and shelter.
In February, the Australian government identified 113 animal species which needed “urgent help” after the bushfires.
Almost all on the list had lost at least 30 per cent of their habitat in temperate forests and grasslands of Australia’s south and east.